|Lived in||Yerevan, Rongcheng|
|Languages||Armenian, Russian, Chinese|
Armenian fulfills dream in Shandong
By Zhao Ruixue ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-05-13 09:36:19
Even the cabbies know Militonyan Nune in Rongcheng, a county-level city of Weihai, Shandong province. The Armenian woman's cafe—and her pursuit of happiness in China—are well-known among local people.
Taxi driver Wang Hongjun says: "We all know about her story and her coffee bar and restaurant are popular among tourists".
Located at the Shidao port of the city, Nune's restaurant features a big photo of her family with "Love in China" printed on it in Chinese.
"You couldn't imagine how much I've gone through to get this," the 46-year-old says in Chinese, with a strong local accent.
Nineteen years ago, Nune worked as a hospital nurse in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, where her father ran a factory and her mother worked as a doctor. She had a decent life: "I lived in a villa, had a car and drank wine every day."
But everything changed in 1995 when she nursed a Chinese man who worked at a mill in Yerevan.
"I got a fever and she nursed me for seven days like a family member," says Deng Zhonggang, now Nune's husband.
"When I was discharged from hospital, she gave me her phone number and told me if I had any problem in Yerevan, I could talk to her," the 47-year-old says.
Deng called Nune frequently and they started seeing each other.
"At first my mom opposed our relationship as she thought Zhonggang was not a match for me. But he worked hard to convince my parents that he could be a good husband," Nune says.
At a party, Deng made "fantastic dumplings" for her parents and friends, touching their hearts as well as tickling their taste buds.
Nune and Deng got married in 1996 in Yerevan. They had twin daughters the next year.
In 1997, the family moved to Deng's hometown, Zhanjiazhuang village, on the coast in Rongcheng.
"It was terrible," Nune says of her early life there.
"People were curious about me. They touched my hair and skin to feel if I was real," she says.
More frustrating were the living conditions at the village—the stinky outdoor toilet, the brick "kang" bed, no supermarket, no tapwater, no shower. A tractor was the only transportation available for a lengthy trip.
"I once mistook the cauldron they used for cooking meals as a tool for washing clothes," Nune recalls.
After her well-established life in Yerevan, she had to learn all the house and farm work in China, including making steamed bread in the cauldron, washing clothes by the river and cutting wheat.
At first, "hao " (ok) was the only Chinese word Nune could say. Even a kiss that Nune regards as a social greeting created gossip among the locals.
"My first three phone calls to my mom, I could say nothing, just cry. I couldn't help crying," says Nune.
Deng felt sorry for bringing Nune to such a difficult life, so he bought a ticket and persuaded Nune to return to Yerevan. Minutes before the ship set off, however, Nune got off.
"I couldn't abandon my husband and daughters," she says. So she approached life in China with a new determination and enthusiasm.
With money her mother sent, Nune started raising chickens and cows in 2002. She even slept in the cowshed to better know the animals' habits. She earned 9,000 yuan ($1,450) in 2004, when the average income of local villagers was around 2,000 yuan.
In 2005, Nune met several Russians while shopping and learned their ships were docked at the port for maintenance.
"They told me they can't find a place to drink coffee and eat Russian food, so opening a coffee bar to serve Russians came into my mind," says Nune, who speaks fluent Russian.
The same year, the local government began to promote industries of fisheries, shipping and tourism at the Shidao port. The timing was perfect.
With the help of a local investor, Nune's coffee bar was soon open for business, popular among Russians and domestic tourists, too. Now earning around 70,000 yuan a year, she moved her family to the urban area of Rongcheng and soon bought a car and laptop.
Nune's workers, mostly women who were laid off from previous jobs, make a good salary now.
Wang Rongqiao, a female worker who once had to take two weeks of sick leave, gave the boss a thumb's-up. "I unexpectedly got the whole month's salary and an extra allowance of 500 yuan from Nune," Wang says.
Boosted by the brisk business of the coffee bar, Nune opened a restaurant at Shi-dao port in 2006. She gets tips from her mother about Russian cooking via the Internet.
Now Nune has opened a new coffee bar at Licun village at Rongcheng's Haoyunjiao Holiday Resort.
"Such a coffee bar with foreign flavors injects vigor into our tourism sector," says Wang Hongwei, a publicity official at the resort.
Her twin daughters—Kamila and Luchiya—are Nune's pride and joy.
The 18-year-old sisters, who now study at Yantai Arts School, have won several big dancing prizes and made appearances in films.
"China has seen sound and fast development in recent years. I believe it's a good choice for them to develop in China," Nune says. "I'm very happy, and I love China. This is a great country," Nune says.
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